Feb. 10, 2012 at 1:02 PM ET
By Jessica Naziri, CNBC
Kids are collecting machines. Give them something cute, fun and — most importantly — cheap, and they will use every cent of allowance and every begging tactic in the book to own the whole collection.
Reading teacher and mother of three Ilyse Brainin probably knows the formula better than most. She came up with her own twist on the collection craze with Floppets, flexible little animal characters attached to a Velcro strap.
She started with a cast of 36 characters, each with their own story that kids can read via the Floppets website.
Floppets retail for $2 each on Amazon and some specialty retail stores. They will be unveiled to major retailers (Floppert are also carried in some specialty store) at the 2012 Toy Fair next week in New York City. We spoke with founder Brainin to find out how she, with some help from husband Richard Goodwin, got Floppets off the ground.
Where did the idea come from?
I have three children and I have been teaching for over 20 years. I saw that kids love little pet characters and they always wanted to take their pet friends with them. I noticed that flip-flops and backpacks would be a great way for kids to display their pets. Then I realized the kids could use the Velcro straps to hook the Floppets together, so kids can wear them as bracelets and necklaces.
Where did the funding first come from?
To get the funding to prototype the product and design the first characters, I put together my savings and some of my prized items like jewelry and sold them (she started with $10,000). It soon became apparent that a larger sum was needed to manufacture, set-up a website and create the 200 characters that I envisioned. Friends, as well as people I worked with in the community and at schools were helpful. I got to know some of the parents and they became some of our private angel investors.
Who was your first customer?
The first customer, aside from friends and family was the Children’s Discovery Museum (in Chicago). They placed an order for nearly 300 Floppets. It was a very exciting and vindicating moment for us. It has been catching fire since. It is an easy product to sell because when you see it you know what it is, and the price point is right there.
When did you know the company would be a success?
We knew the company would be a success when we had a booth at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair [which is open to the public] and sold a Floppet every 60 seconds for two days straight. Kids and parents could not resist a cute and cool character that they can wear for $2.
We are looking to bring Floppets to an online world called Floptopia, which will feature interactive apps that are both fun and educational, and a web-series cartoon of our characters. Since the Floppets concept is so universal in appeal we are signing on licenses from a couple of movies, high profile web-series, and entertainment properties such as Star Trek to tap into the pop-culture collectors’ market.
Follow Jessica Naziri on Twitter @jessicanaziri